Monday, May 28, 2012

Holy Cannoli!

Ok, since trying the cannoli at Bella Napoli in KCMO, I couldn't get cannoli out of my head.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the dessert at that little restaurant, but I kept thinking somehow that I could make it a bit more exiting for my taste buds.  So, I looked up a bunch of cannoli recipes, and found out some interesting facts along the way.  For instance, cannoli originated in Sicily, not Italy.  And that cannoli is actually the plural form of cannolo (or conolo).  So if you are only ordering one, don't say cannoli.  And also that a lot of European recipes have been modified to fit America's sweet tooth.  Apparently, there are desserts from other countries that aren't really sweet until we get ahold of them and pump more sugar into them, can you believe that?  Well, I can actually because that's exactly what I did for my version of cannoli, lol!

Ok, you've seen the picture, wanna know what I did?  I made 4 different kinds to see what combinations of flavors I could make before saying "Uh no, you just ruined it," (which incidentally kinda happened when I mixed all the leftover fillings together into one cannolo shell, they just didn't play well with each other.  BTW that one is not in the picture) or until I ran out of filling.
  • I made a traditional one with "plain" filling with pistachio garnish on the ends, and dark chocolate drizzle (the one in the center of the pic above).
  • 2 with Dagoba Aztec chocolate chunks (I know, totally NOT Sicilian) in the filling with pistachios on the ends (the two on the right of the pic).
  • One with dark chocolate chunks and cinnamon in the plain filling with tips dipped in chocolate, topped with chocolate drizzle (second one from the left in pic).
  • And (my favorite) one with crushed Ghirardelli Dark & Sea Salt Caramel squares with ends dipped in chocolate, and drizzled with caramel (the first one on the left in the pic).  
  • All cannoli were topped with a dusting of powdered sugar.  
See, with each variety, I just kept making them sweeter and sweeter.  Now, I want to point out that even though the sweetest ones had chocolate and caramel and such, believe it or not, they still weren't as sweet as our traditional American desserts.  The thing that plays a big part in cutting down the sweetness, is that cannoli filling is generally made with mostly ricotta cheese.  I know, right?  I was surprised as well.  Now this isn't to say that there aren't versions of cannoli that make the filling from cream and cornstarch, because there are.  But traditionally, ricotta (or mascarpone) cheese is what's used for the cannoli base.

Now that you know the different things I did for the filling goodies, let me tell you how I made the base filling:
  1. The first thing I did was open a 16 oz. container of ricotta cheese and drain it in cheesecloth. You want to let any liquid in the ricotta drain out, otherwise, your cannoli filling will be runny.
  2. While that was draining, I put a medium ceramic bowl and the mixer beaters into the freezer (you'll find out why later).  Then I put different flavored chocolate bars into separate baggies and started whacking them with a hammer.  Ok, it was really a meat mallet, but it was still fun.  I did this to make chunks for some of the fillings (and did I mention, because it was fun?).
  3. Once I got my ingredients lined up, I pulled the mixing bowl and beaters out of the freezer and poured in 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, 2 Tbls. of sugar, and 1/2 tsp. of vanilla (don't use that crap vanilla flavoring, get real vanilla extract).  Then I mixed it on high for a few minutes until it looked like whipped cream.  TIP: Putting the bowl and beaters into the freezer makes the cream stiffen faster and cuts the beating time significantly.
  4. If you are dipping the ends of the shells in chocolate, melt the chocolate in the microwave, dip the ends, place on wax paper, and chill in the refrigerator for a few minutes.  
  5. Then, I took the drained ricotta and put it into a large bowl.  I added 1/2 cup of the whipped cream mixture and 1/4 cup of powdered sugar.  I folded it all together gently, until well blended.  Then I separated the filling out into other containers so that I could do some ingredient experimentation.
  6. After I finished making my filling combos, I spooned them into individual ziplock sandwich bags and cut the corners of each bag.  Then I piped the filling into the cannolo from the inside out, then flipped the shell around and did the same to the other end.  
  7. The I drizzled them with some sticky-sweet goodness and dusted them with powdered sugar, and DONE!
There are lots of recipes out there for the shells, but I had already hunted & gathered plus made dinner that day, and I was just too lazy to make them from scratch.  The shells take the longest to make, so I just bought some pre-made ones instead.  But do yourself a favor and don't skip on making the whipped cream from scratch.  Since I started making my own, I haven't bought whipped cream since. I think I may have gotten the recipe for it out of a Better Homes & Gardens cookbook way back when, but it is so creamy and tasty that I can't go back to canned (or tubbed) whipped cream.  It really does make a difference.  Oh, speaking of which, there will be whipped cream left over after you fold the 1/2 cup into the ricotta for the filling, so feel free to try it with cut-up strawberries, in your coffee/hot cocoa, or just shovel it into your're welcome.

Bottom line, if you make cannoli at home, set aside some time so that you can really get creative.  I had a lot of fun trying out new combos, and I hope you do too!

1 comment:

  1. The ones at Bella Napoli usually have pistachios. After reading this, I think I love my little Bella Napoli even more. I feel like its authentic.